Ocean’s Twelve belongs in the cultural pantheon with other great movie sequels but instead it’s often regarded as the black sheep of the trilogy.
So why is this title so often overlooked and unloved? Because like many great pieces of art it is misunderstood by the untrained eye.
Okay, let’s clear the air before we dive into the deep end. I really like this movie and think it’s a phenomenal film but if you don’t that is totally fine.
What isn’t okay is writing off the second installment of the Ocean’s trilogy because it’s different.
Ocean’s Twelve a con movie, not a heist movie.
The most common complaint about Ocean’s Twelve is that the marquee heist doesn’t matter therefore the entire movie doesn’t matter.
While the former is true the latter is not. You realize eventually that the heist of the Fabergé egg in the third act of the movie happened off-screen and much earlier.
Admittedly this can be deflating when you are expecting a heist reveal similar to the one in Ocean’s Eleven, but this also underlies one of the differences between the first two Ocean’s movies: Ocean’s Twelve is a con movie not a heist movie.
None of the heists matter throughout the film and it’s not because of a storytelling hand wave, it’s because the movie is about the con men who commit the crimes.
Ocean’s Eleven introduces us to a world of high level connected con men and a new lexicon of con speak. Ocean’s Twelve expands on this by taking us from Las Vegas to a European expedition with more depth, more staples of the con community, more rules, and way more con speak.
For instance the Ocean’s crew is released from Interpool custody not from a lazy storytelling loophole but as part of Ocean’s world building to show the breadth and connections of the con community, specifically with Linus’s family ties which were only briefly mentioned in Ocean’s Eleven.
Ocean’s Twelve is a movie about movie sequels.
The second key misunderstanding of Ocean’s Twelve is not realizing that the film is a meta commentary on the entire idea of sequels.
The whole idea of having to do another big job that’s different than the first is the very idea of a sequel. Ocean’s Twelve heavily leans into this idea with the cast of characters making reference to doing another, bigger job than the first in order to pay back their debt.
For an even more nuanced dissection you can swap Terry Benedict, the casino owner trying to get his money back plus interest, for a studio executive making his director and cast make a bigger movie than than the one they just did before (money + interest).
Ocean’s director Steven Soderbergh adds quite a bit of flair to this sequel which adds to the confusion and criticism.
Ocean’s Twelve is very European in nature. From shooting on location, to a heavily inspired European soundtrack and camerawork, the movie is stylistically a major departure from it’s predecessor.
While the stoner Euro vibes may not be your cup of tea, it isn’t enough to discount the entire experience.
Ocean’s Twelve is misunderstood, which is understandable for the out-there execution of a con-movie. But now that you know what’s really going on behind the scenes, it’s time to give this movie another chance.